cigar-tin stories number eighty three / / a Friday, in several parts

A Friday morning. It’s the end (finally, Jesus, the end) of Oona’s March break so I don’t have to make any breakfasts or lunches but my own. And that’s easy: coffee with cream. My brother-in-law is a believer in short periods of fasting so I’m trying it on; although I won’t make it to noon, I can probably last ’til 10, with more coffee and water along the way. Since starting this dieting business, I’ve lost nine pounds. I have until the end of April to lose twenty. I use my no-rushing, no-coercing, no-craziness morning time to write in my day planner. I am that person who is more or less organized because I constantly struggle and fail to be more or less organized. But soon I have to get going; Oona has a play date at a frenemy’s this afternoon which means her mom needs the car which means I need to go catch a bus. After a warm, hope-filled day Thursday, the weather this Friday morning is a rap across the knuckles, with a hectoring wind that cuts right through my light gloves. Several people at the bus stop are not wearing hats and some even have wet hair and I know I am getting old now because the sight of this makes me wince. On board the 502 Express downtown, things get eerily quiet; people are already working hard at avoiding eye contact. I listen to an Irish Times podcast about Russians being poisoned in Great Britain, then about the slurping volcano of buffoonery and sleaze in Washington D.C.; the musicality of the Irish accent somehow makes it all less deplorable. The walk from downtown to my office, especially the middle part going over the causeway, is loud and biting and wholly unpleasant. A guy in front of me, determined to try and smoke and have his coffee along the way, is experiencing the weather equivalent of being rolled into a wet rug and kicked by a gang of children.

A Friday working. I spend all day making minor, senseless corrections on a massive book that is murderous in its blunt length––all heavy, black-letter design and blustering irrelevance (I once had an American history professor who confessed that most military history is the intellectual equivalent of masturbating into the sink). The sheer volume of charts and graphs and things that have to be turned on their sides just to fit is brutal; I think I understand ideas around crashing ambition better than most but this is a bit obliterating in the futility department. By the end of the day I’m literally twitching with the sheer uselessness of the last eight hours.

A Friday evening. Friday evenings are hard. I’m tired. But if I can just get to the studio and fall into some work, things will usually proceed on their own simply by picking things up or taking them down.

I finish some cigar-tin stories –– here, here and here. I make a booklet about wolves (which I haven’t had time to scan or photograph––maybe next week). I remake a painting that has been asking me for something for quite some time. I finish a book art object about monsters.

I start a new painting, over a giant map, but there are some problems with working too wet, so it will need some going over. Also, I have this idea to re-fold it as a map again, incorporating those lines/folds as part of the image, and thereby transforming its nature as well (it could be treated just like a map, something to pin to a wall, or even frame). A more affordable, transportable art. I’ll probably write more about this next week as well.

Finally, I have to call it a day. On the way to catch the bus home I pass whole battalions of stumbly-legged blonde girls and pressed-together boys, all of them giving off the psychic energy of gophers, all half-drunk and carrying flats of beer, and then I remember that it’s St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, and I start thinking about drinking, and bars, and I have this weird errant thought about Winnipeg, where I used to live, in the long ago, for ten years in fact, and I wonder, is Winnipeg the Sammy Hagar of Canadian cities? Loud, wildly permed, all capped teeth and Mazatlan tan, largely ignored but standing directly in front of the speakers anyway?


I hope everyone survived their kids’ social calendars last week,

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. This is a version of my regular Tinyletter, which you can subscribe to here.


cigar-tin stories number eight one / / fat raccoon

I make a painting called The Fantastic Trees. In fact I make a few attempts with it, changing its personality completely, more than once, but ultimately I hang it and look at it carefully and like its overall effect. Then I don’t. This happens slowly, in stages, over weeks of seeing it out of the corner of my eye. Somehow it catches. And then one night I just take it down and remake it, without thinking about it at all.

Kill your darlings is a phrase often used in writing. One has to get away from the idea that anything is precious. Because it isn’t. It has a life and then that’s it. Great works––the kind you see in museums––have long lives, and the greatest seem almost immortal, while certain others survive incidentally, falling through time by accident or strange intention, and wake up astonished on the Antiques Road Show.

I do not change the title.

I listen to a podcast about dropshipping: that spurious scheme of getting rich from being a kind of internet straw man, when in fact the real money is in teaching or coaching this pipedream to others. Fantastical thinking always reminds me of the writing community, which most closely resembles a road crammed with French refugees in the summer of 1940: badly dressed, humping their frantic collections of treasure and junk across the psychic countryside, wailing and tramping along, motivated only by vague ideas of escape and destination, all the while wondering why this simplest of ambitions keeps getting dive-bombed so mercilessly. With writing, too, any real money––any long-term stable money that buys groceries and mortgages––lies in teaching. Even Zadie Smith––the Greta Garbo of modern publishing, so glamorous and well-advertised (is there a difference?) that she has to wear elegant headscarves to keep from exploding into a British glitter cloud of radioactive coolness––has to teach creative writing at NYU.

The diet continues. Today is Day 15. I’ve lost seven pounds. C has me using an app called myfitnesspal (which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t feel like my pal at all; a real pal would give me chips) that I mostly use to count calories. I finish one day at 1083 calories. The app does not like this one bit. The app says I need 2 000 calories a day. Or at the very least 1 200. The app will not record this day in my progress because it does not reward bad behaviour. And I thought I had been so good.

A raccoon comes to visit me on the back deck one night. He is so fat that I have to double-check his tail, looking for stripes; in fact he is easily a medium-sized dog. He does not care that I am there at all. Only after I start talking to him does he even look at me, and then only briefly do we make eye contact, one fatty to another.

March just goes on and on about itself, doesn’t it? I hope everyone has stopped listening.


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. This is a version of my every-Tuesday Tinyletter; you can subscribe here.

You cannot make a revolution in white gloves.


a catalyst for a revolution; an original mixed media painting and collage on cradled wood panel, 6 x 6 x 1.5 inches

The quotation in the title is from Lenin –– who is in no danger of having clean hands.

March is here. I always say February is the calendar’s tribute to waking up in a drainage ditch, but March is not far behind… more like wandering through a forest at dusk, and somewhere is the sound of bells.

I’ve decided to lean into the pain (that’s a good name for a professional wrestler: Thomas Paine) and go on a diet; we’re travelling to Cuba in the spring and we’ve decided not to go in fat. Or at least less fat.

Giving up the beer has been the hardest because: beer. And I’m probably consuming too much honey. But other than that I’ve been well below the recommended calorie intake every day, now for ten days going. We’ll see what happens.

Try to be productive this March. Because summer will come, all stupid with sun and bad swimwear, and then nothing gets done.

songs for skating / / cigar-tin stories number eighty

I make a painting called The Adventurer. There are no real adventurers anymore, at least not in the classic mode: costumed out in khaki and straps, always crash-landing their dubious flying machines, or half-starved and completely mad beyond the borders of some godforsaken jungle, or abandoned hinterland, or skeleton-paved mountain range, before disappearing forever in some desperate, senseless attempt to circumnavigate an area of the globe entirely devoid of dots or reason. One can’t just rollick around the planet any longer, powered by stylish steamer trunks and charming letters of introduction to the right local chieftains. Too much of the world is a no-go zone now, with all the appeal of a drainage ditch, or wet ashtray, or Detroit, except with cluster bombs and refugees, and like Detroit these places just keep limping along, no matter how poorly their scars and screams fit into our Instagram feed.

I remember reading Scott‘s letters in school; I think he was meant to personify something specifically British and stoic and doomy and romantic all at once, and I wonder how much my National-Lampoon-saturated brain could have possibly soaked in.

Friday, March 16 or Saturday 17 – Lost track of dates, but think the last correct. Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn’t go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and we induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come.
Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates’ last thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not––would not––give up hope till the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning –– yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since.

We go skating. Oona never wants to go skating (see: kids, effort) but this is a skill she needs to acquire. As with learning to ride a bike or catch a ball, I would like her future decisions to be motivated by reason or enthusiasm and not based on fear. So yes, avoid the company slow-pitch team like the 100%-polyester drunks that they probably are, but don’t do so because you feel like Les Nessman in left field. Besides, she’s getting better all the time.

I played hockey as a kid and I was atrocious. Combine one cup of all-limbs, talent-free athletic ability with two tablespoons of white-bread, indifferent coaching, mixed with the mendacious no-name mincemeat otherwise known small-town hockey culture and voilà: you get a thoroughly lacklustre hockey player who jumps from the oven as soon as humanly possible, and afterwards can only relate to sports through a Funny Games versus Island of Doctor Moreau-like prism. Are all sports bad? Of course not. Should most of them be regarded as Amway with whistles and more meaningless prizes? Yes.

It’s always The Past at public skating. It’s always time for Nazareth or Golden Earring or Def Leppard (did you know the drummer only has one arm! wow!) or Tears for Fears or the Cranberries or even Poison, and it is never, ever time for Kanye. But the one song that eclipses all others, that tears through the psychic stratosphere of public skating like an avenging comet, obliterating all consciousness with syrupy detonations of feel-good rock stardom, is More Than a Feeling by Boston. You can skate to that forever.

Alright. C has put me on a 15-calorie-per-day diet so I don’t have the strength or mental cohesion to type any more. Tonight we’re going to see the Peking Acrobats!

I hope everyone is having a good day…


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

The Empress Awakens


The Empress Awakens; an original mixed media painting on canvas, 24 x 36 x 1 1/2 inches

canvas, card strips, collage, crayon, pencil, acrylic ink, acrylic paints, wash, varnish

a large, vibrant painting that sets the tone of a room

an painting that speaks in texture and colour, with allusions to the archetype of The Empress of the tarot

I have three quotations for this one:

A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more.
― John Steinbeck

See all of this world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
–– Buddha

I called the world of phenomena an illusion, I called my eyes and my tongue and accident, valueless phenomena. No, that is all over; I have awakened, I have really awakened and have just been born today.
― Hermann Hesse

shipped with care –– with masonite board

everything from my store comes with an extra art surprise

ESCAPE THE DREAMING PLANET –– live your life with original art

besides, Spring is almost upon us!

downtown fire escape


downtown fire escape

an original mixed media collage on cradled wood panel

9 x 12 x 1 1/2 inches

drawing, found paper, typographic elements, acrylic paint, colour-infused gel, pencil and marker

a very red painting that tells a frantic little story

packaged for gift giving

a perfect accent for a cubicle or desk, adding vibrancy and detail

sealed and protected with gloss varnish

three quotes for this one …

She’s mad, but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire.
~ Charles Bukowski

Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.
~ John Wesley

shipped with care

everything from my store comes with an extra art surprise


original painting, home decor, decorating, fine art, wall art, collage, wax, monoprint, heat, flame, fire, downtown, escape, wood panel, gesso, acrylic, ink, pencil, wax paper, varnish, the moment of forever burning

let’s bring your secrets out into the light


let’s bring your secrets out into the light

This is an art object, or book sculpture –– intended as a home decor accent or touch. It’s the kind of art that travels well, especially to cubicles or shelves or mantles, even just sitting on coffee tables (it’s heavily varnished, and meant to be picked up and examined).

5 3/4 x 8 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches

I have three quotes for this one, on the nature of secrets …

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.
― George Orwell, 1984

Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.
― André Malraux

Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.
― James Joyce

This is a found/rescued book, from someone moving and downsizing.


It’s been snowing all day. Looked at the forecast on Environment Canada this morning –– Special Weather Statement in Effect –– and had to make the call on whether to send the kid to school. For me, school wins. Too much school gets cancelled or otherwise nullified already. The buses being cancelled has nothing to do with it; that outfit folds up if there’s an angry cloud hanging around.

Anyway: we made it to the end of the day without a call from the school. And soon I’ll go pick her up and spend my evening pushing snow up and down the long, crooked driveway.